Categotry Archives: Military


Wayne Schenk


Categories: Business, Military

Last December, Wayne A. Schenk received some grave news. Doctors told him he had lung cancer and only 12 to 16 months left to live.
A struggling tavern owner and longtime smoker, Schenk didn’t have any health insurance. Since he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1976 to 1980, the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Syracuse, N.Y., agreed to provide him with radiation and chemotherapy.
Schenk needed more aggressive cancer treatment in order to survive, and the VA’s resources were limited. He requested a transfer to cancer centers in Pennsylvania and New York, but both were out of the VA’s network and required patients to pay $125,000 upfront and have $250,000 in reserve. Schenk simply didn’t have that kind of money. Although he considered selling his tavern, the Orange Inn in Naples, N.Y., Schenk knew a real estate deal would take too long and may not net enough money to pay for the specialized medical care he needed. With nothing to lose, he decided to play the New York State lottery.
Surprisingly, the long shot paid off.
On Jan. 12, Schenk won $1 million from a $5 scratch-off ticket in the lottery’s High Stakes Blackjack game. The odds of someone Schenk’s age developing lung cancer are roughly 1 in 5,000; the odds of winning the jackpot in High Stakes Blackjack are 1 in 2,646,000.
Unfortunately, the sudden windfall did not solve Schenk’s health or financial problems. According to lottery regulations, the prize money could only be paid out in 20 annual installments of $50,000. Schenk didn’t have 20 years ahead of him. He needed the lump sum award to even have a chance at staying alive.
As his health continued to decline, Schenk turned to friends, family, financial institutions, the media, even a N.Y. state assemblyman for help — all to no avail. Legislation to create an exception in Schenk’s case would take years to pass, and lottery officials refused to bend the rules for him.
In the final days of his life, the Canandaigua, N.Y., native married his girlfriend, Joan DeClerck. He was so ill during the wedding ceremony that he had to breathe through an oxygen tank. Before the disease weakened his health, he enjoyed traveling, ice fishing and hunting.
Schenk died on April 23 at the age of 51. He left the remainder of his lottery winnings to his wife.


Jean Kennedy Schmidt


Categories: Extraordinary People, Medicine, Military

Lt. Jean Kennedy Schmidt, an American nurse who was held prisoner for nearly three years during World War II, died on March 3 from complications of a fall. She was 88.
Born Imogene Kennedy in Philadelphia, Miss., Schmidt was raised on a farm with her seven siblings. In 1941, she earned a nursing degree from the University of Tennessee and enlisted in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps.
Schmidt was stationed in the Philippines with 98 Army and Navy nurses when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The next day, the Japanese began bombing U.S. bases in the Philippines, including Schmidt’s. Although few of the nurses stationed with Schmidt had experience working in war conditions, they rallied together to build and operate impromptu field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan.
As the Japanese army advanced, the American nurses and other military personnel retreated to the Bataan Peninsula and then to Corregidor, a rocky island in Manila Bay. Amidst almost constant shelling, they set up a hospital in an underground maze of tunnels and cared for wounded civilians and soldiers.
A few of the nurses escaped Corregidor before it fell in May 1942, however Schmidt and 76 other nurses were taken prisoner. The women were sent to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp, where they lived in captivity for nearly three years. During their incarceration, they tended to the injured and diseased prisoners, even though they had no supplies, no medicines and no equipment. Food was also scarce. To stave off starvation and malnutrition, the nurses fried weeds, okra, flowers and roots in the cold cream that came in their Red Cross kits.
Allied forces crashed through the gates of the prison camp in 1945 and liberated the American military nurses who the press dubbed “The Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.” For her courage and exemplary service, Schmidt received many honors, including the Bronze Star and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon.
Three months after her release, Jean married Richard Schmidt, a fellow POW held at the Santo Tomas camp. They settled in California and raised two children. Schmidt continued working as well, providing nursing services at Providence Hospital in Oakland, Mills Hospital in San Mateo and La Vina Hospital in Altadena. In her spare time, she volunteered with the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, and attended “Angels of Bataan” reunions. Of the 77 “angels,” only three are still alive.


Ken Black

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Categories: Military

Kenneth Black, one of the founders of the lighthouse preservation movement in the United States, died on Jan. 28. Cause of death was not released. He was 82.
A native of Ridgefield Park, N.J., Black joined the Coast Guard in 1941. He fought in the Pacific theater during World War II and saw action at the invasion of Okinawa. In the late 1950s, Black served as commander of Quoddy Head Station in Lubec, Maine. There he started a Coast Guard tradition of decorating the West Quoddy Head Light in holiday lights. During his tenure as commander of the Point Allerton, Mass., Life Boat Station from 1965 to 1968, the station’s crew made the most rescues on the East Coast. Black received numerous honors in the service, including an American Defense Medal, an Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, a WWII Victory Medal and a WWII Occupational Service Medal.
It was while serving in the Coast Guard that Chief Warrant Officer Black became interested in lighthouses. For the rest of his life, he accumulated and preserved hundreds of lighthouse lenses, massive foghorns, lifesaving boats, fog bells, charts and other related artifacts. Much of his lighthouse archives included equipment that was being thrown away after lighthouses were automated, sold to private investors or destroyed. When his massive collection outgrew the Coast Guard base in Rockland, Maine, he moved it to a new building in town that became known as the Shore Village Museum. The artifacts remained there, on public display, for more than 30 years.
Black was affectionately known to lighthouse enthusiasts as “Mr. Lighthouse” for his vast knowledge about the mechanics of vintage lighthouse equipment. (His wife, Dorothy “Dot” Wyman Black, who survives him, is called “Mrs. Lighthouse.”) Ken was the first person to publish a national newsletter on lighthouses, and frequently narrated a slide show called “Lighthouses Are Like People: They Come in All Sizes, Shapes and Colors.” In 2005, Black founded the Maine Lighthouse Museum on the Rockland waterfront. His collection of lighthouse memorabilia was moved into the new building; an exhibition hall in the museum was named in Black’s honor last June. The Maine Lighthouse Museum now boasts the largest collection of lighthouse lenses in the nation.
Black remained with the Coast Guard for 32 years, serving in ports throughout New England and the Great Lakes. He retired in 1973, ending his illustrious career as commanding officer of the Rockland Coast Guard Station and the official curator of the First Coast Guard District. For his dedication to the preservation of lighthouse artifacts, Black was hailed on the floor of the U.S. Senate and commended in a letter from President George W. Bush. Lighthouse Digest magazine also gave him its “Beacon of Light Award” for his efforts in preserving lighthouse history. Last year, the Coast Guard created a special award for Black because he had already received every other award the service had to offer.


Bernard D. Meltzer

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Categories: Education, Law, Military

bmeltzer.jpgBernard D. Meltzer, a prosecutor who tried Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg International War Trials, died on Jan. 4 of prostate cancer. He was 92.
Meltzer was born in 1914 in Philadelphia to Russian immigrants. He attended Temple University for four semesters before transferring to the University of Chicago. There Meltzer completed his undergraduate studies in 1935 and earned a law degree in 1937. He spent the following year doing a graduate fellowship at Harvard Law School, where he received a master of laws degree.
Meltzer attempted to enlist in the Navy after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, but was unable to do so due to poor eyesight. Two years later, however, he was commissioned as a naval officer and assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the CIA.
Meltzer helped draft the U.N. Charter in 1945, yet he was still in the Navy when he led a team of lawyers in the prosecution of economic associations and crimes of the Nazi regime. His most noted tasks in the Nuremberg trials included interrogating Herman Goering in pretrial proceedings, and presenting the case against Walter Funk, whom Hitler had appointed as Minister of Economics to the Third Reich.
“Of the defendants I met face to face, I found Goering the most interesting and the most diabolical,” Meltzer said in a 1995 interview with the University of Chicago Chronicle.
That interview wouldn’t be the last time Meltzer was asked to recount his experiences at Nuremberg. In a paper written in 2000, Meltzer spoke of some of the difficulties of the Nuremberg trials, citing the challenges of meshing different legal systems. He also described what he saw on later reflection to be the central difficulty of Nuremberg and termed “the unequal application of the law.” Meltzer offered a considered view on how that inequality developed and ended the paper with a sentiment directed at Kosovo, but which has other current reverberations: “Indeed, it may well be that, as was true at Nuremberg, unequal and flawed justice may be preferable to no justice at all.”
After the Nuremberg trials ended, Meltzer joined the faculty of the University of Chicago and specialized in labor law. He helped guide the university’s law school, taught the country’s first class on international organizations and composed writings on legal issues that are still relevant today.

–Gale Walden


Brian Lee Schubert


Categories: Law, Military, Sports

Brian Lee Schubert, a private investigator and veteran BASE jumper, leaped from a bridge to his death on Oct. 21. He was 66.

The Alta Loma, Calif., resident was a former Army paratrooper and a graduate of the FBI Academy. He worked in law enforcement for more than two decades, ending his career as a lieutenant with the Pomona, Calif., police department. After his retirement in 1989, Schubert opened his own private investigation business. He was also an avid fisherman, hunter and skier.

Schubert was in his 20s when he first explored BASE jumping, a sport which involves parachuting off buildings, antennae, spans and earth. In 1966, he and his friend Mike Pelkey became the first people to jump from El Capitan, the largest monolith in America. Fierce winds near the 3,000-foot-high rock formation in Yosemite National Park caused Pelkey to accidentally fracture his ankle. Schubert collapsed his parachute early and broke all of the bones in his feet — and several other bones as well — upon landing. He did not BASE jump again for 40 years.

Last Saturday, thousands of people watched Schubert jump from the New River Gorge Bridge during the annual Bridge Day festival in Fayetteville, W. Va. According to witnesses, Schubert’s parachute opened about 25 feet from the ground, too late to stop his fall. He hit the New River, 876 feet below the bridge, and died on impact.

Nearly 400 jumpers from 13 countries performed 804 jumps at Bridge Day this year. Schubert’s death was the first time a fatality had marred the event since 1987, and the third since the festival started in 1980.
World BASE Fatality List

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